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Help teens make smart decisions

The more you know about prescription drug abuse (and the science behind it), the more you'll want to help your friends (if you're a teenager) or students (if you're an educator) learn the facts and make smart decisions. NIDA developed the tools on this Web site to help you get the word out and make a positive difference in teens' lives.

The Facts and Activity Guide for students and teachers will support you in your efforts. Downloadable posters, buddy icons, and more Downloads will make it fun to help teens avoid prescription drug abuse.


Prescription drug abuse is a big problem among youth across the Nation. Among youth who are 12 to 17 years old, 7.7 percent reported past-year nonmedical use of prescription medications (that is, without a doctor’s guidance).[1] In fact, according to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey, prescription and over-the-counter medications are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. When asked how prescription narcotics (opioids) were obtained for nonmedical use, more than half of the 12th graders surveyed said they were given the drugs or bought them from a friend or relative.[1]

The Problem

Teens are making the decision to abuse prescription medicines based on misinformation. Teens abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons, including to get high, to treat pain, and because they think it will help them with school work. Teens often don't realize prescription drugs can have dangerous short- and long-term health consequences when used inappropriately (e.g., using someone else's medication or taking their own medication in a way other than prescribed, such as a larger dose or more frequently).[1] In addition, teens may not know that using prescription medications that are not prescribed to the user is illegal.

A New Initiative

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is reaching out to help stop this troubling problem among teens. "Prescription drug abuse is not new, but it does deserve continued vigilance," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. "It is imperative that as a Nation we make ourselves aware of the consequences associated with the abuse of these medications." Whether you are an educator, mentor, or student, NIDA encourages you to use materials provided by PEERx to learn about prescription drug abuse and to spread the word about its effects on health.

About PEERx

PEERx was created to provide educators, mentors, student leaders, and teens with science-based information about the harmful effects that prescription drug abuse has on the brain and body. Information sharing is a collective effort; therefore, NIDA is asking you to take the information provided on this Web site and raise awareness among teens in your community about the dangers and effects of abusing prescription drugs.

Many features of this site can be used to help generate ideas on how to raise awareness among the teens you encounter daily. Learn the science behind prescription drug abuse in The Facts. Get helpful tips for teachers and student leaders on how to engage teens actively through homework assignments or extracurricular projects in the Activity Guide. Use fun downloads for teens to help spread the word among friends and classmates in Downloads. Check out the latest Sara Bellum Blog posts and leave a comment on the Blog.

Make your mark on this topic today! Inform your community. Introduce yourself to PEERx.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Revised 2011. Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse Research Report. NIH Publication No. 11-4881. Printed 2001. Revised April 2011.

PEERx Partner Spotlight

In 2013, the VA ABC and its Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP) invited NIDA to present information about the PEERx initiative during its Summer Leadership Conference. NIDA presented to 600 youth leaders and their adult mentors during two conference sessions and participated in a panel. YADAPP also promoted other NIDA for Teens resources, including the Sara Bellum Blog and National Drug Facts Week, throughout the conference.

Additionally, Substance Abuse Awareness Vital for Virginia Youth (SAVVY), another VA ABC youth initiative, distributed NIDA for Teens resources during four SAVVY drug abuse prevention networking expos in Virginia. Expos are attended by parents, educators, counselors, community coalitions and other youth-serving organizations. On the SAVVY Facebook page, the VA ABC frequently shares NIDA drug fact information and other resources.

About VA ABC’s Youth Programs

  • YADAPP is a youth leadership program empowering teens to become involved in keeping their schools and communities alcohol and drug free.
  • SAVVY organizes substance abuse prevention education expos to support communities in their drug prevention efforts and provides information and resources for parents and educators.
  • VA ABC provides education and prevention resources across the lifespan. For more information, visit

Each quarter, NIDA will highlight the efforts of its PEERx partners in the PEERx Partner Spotlight. Thank you to all of our partners for reaching teens with important information about prescription drug abuse.

Archived Spotlights

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA), which represents 32,000 school counselors nationwide, has used a variety of communications strategies to tell its members about NIDA’s PEERx teen prescription drug abuse prevention resources. In October 2012, ASCA invited NIDA to record a podcast about teen prescription drug abuse and the PEERx program. During this podcast, Carol Krause, Chief of NIDA’s Public Information and Liaison Branch, discussed the prevalence and impact of teen prescription drug abuse and what school counselors can do to address this critical public health issue. ASCA posted the podcast on its Web site and promoted it through its member e-newsletter, as well as to more than 7,500 followers on Twitter.

ASCA has also used its social networking site, the ASCA SCENE, to disseminate information about PEERx to the site’s 24,000 members. Following the release of the 2012 Monitoring the Future study results, ASCA posted an entry that highlighted the findings on teen prescription drug abuse and recommended educational strategies, using PEERx resources, for counselors to address this problem. Additionally, ASCA promoted a call for applications for NIDA’s newly formed advisory group of teachers, counselors, and advisors. ASCA’s promotion resulted in substantial interest from the field. Thank you, ASCA!

Operation UNITE is a nonprofit organization serving 32 counties in Kentucky by providing narcotics investigations, substance abuse treatment and referrals, youth programs, family support, and community education initiatives. Its recent prescription drug abuse prevention efforts in schools offer a replicable strategy for other organizations seeking to reach teens about this critical public health issue.

During NIDA’s 2013 National Drug Facts Week, Operation UNITE held events in collaboration with school anti-drug clubs to educate students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Organizers used PEERx resources, including the interactive “Choose Your Path” videos, which allowed students to assume the role of the main character and make decisions about whether to abuse prescription drugs, such as Adderall or Xanax. Students selected which path to take and watched the consequences of that decision play out on screen.

Students also developed skits, and one group even wrote their own music, using only information from the PEERx Web site. They acted out their skits and selected the best one to present to the entire school. Through these efforts, Operation UNITE reached 750 students and teachers.

PEERx Partners

  • American School Counselor Association - The American School Counselor Association supports school counselors' efforts to help students focus on academic, personal/social and career development. ASCA provides professional development, publications and other resources, research and advocacy to more than 31,000 professional school counselors worldwide.
  • California Health Collaborative - The California Health Collaborative serves the needs of individuals with limited access to health care resources. Their Lock It Up Project is a community-based prevention project that raises awareness of the risks associated with prescription drug abuse among youth and young adults in Fresno County, California.
  • CSI Web Adventures  - CSI Web Adventures is a series of five educational games based on the popular CBS show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Case Four: Bitter Pill and Case Five: Fatal Interaction challenge players to investigate crimes related to prescription drug abuse. These cases have been found to be effective in teaching about and promoting more healthy attitudes toward prescription drug abuse.
  • Drug Education Council - The Drug Education Council, a partner agency of the Baldwin County United Way and the United Way of Southwest Alabama, is dedicated to promoting a drug-free society, preventing chemical dependency, and providing quality education, information, and intervention programs.
  • The Governor’s Prevention Partnership, Safe and Drug-free Schools and Communities - The Governor’s Prevention Partnership is a statewide, nonprofit public-private alliance, building a strong, healthy future workforce through leadership in mentoring and prevention of youth violence and bullying, underage drinking, and substance abuse.  Resources for parents, educators, and young people related to each of the organization’s program initiatives can be found on their Web site.
  • Medicine Abuse Project from the Partnership at - The Medicine Abuse Project is a unifying campaign that brings together families, communities, industry, health care professionals, educators, law enforcement, and government officials to curb teen medicine abuse, and ultimately save lives.
  • National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Foundation, AWARxE - AWARxE, a program of the NABP Foundation, is an information source providing authoritative resources about medication safety, prescription drug abuse, medication disposal, and safely buying medications on the Internet.
  • National Education Association’s Health and Information Network - The National Education Association Health and Information Network launched a curriculum program called Rx for Understanding to help educators teach their students about the misuse, abuse, and proper use of prescription drugs.  It is a set of standards-based teaching materials (lesson plans and accompanying resources) for use with students in grades 5-8 that are aligned to the National Health Education Standards and the Common Core State Standards. Additionally, they will be releasing a curriculum for grades 9-12 in 2013.
  • National Institute of Mental Health Outreach Partnership Program - NIMH’s Outreach Partnership Program works to increase the public’s access to science-based mental health information through partnerships with national and state nonprofit organizations. Outreach Partners disseminate NIMH research findings and educational materials to the public throughout their states and local communities.
  • Operation UNITE - Operation UNITE works to rid communities of illegal drug use through undercover narcotics investigations, coordinating treatment for substance abusers, providing support to families and friends of substance abusers, and educating the public about the dangers of using drugs. They hold an annual Rx Drug Abuse Summit to bring together advocates and professionals to specifically address the prescription drug abuse problem.
  • SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) - SADD is a youth-based education, prevention, and activism organization dedicated to preventing destructive decisions, particularly underage drinking, other drug use, risky and impaired driving, teen violence, and teen suicide.
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students - The Office of Safe and Healthy Schools implements drug and violence prevention activities; activities that promote the health and well-being of students in elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and school preparedness activities that contribute to improved conditions for learning.
  • Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (VA ABC) - The VA ABC provides alcohol education and prevention programs for people of all ages, including teen substance abuse prevention initiatives. The Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP) is a youth leadership program empowering teens to become involved in keeping their schools and communities alcohol and drug free. Each year YADAPP holds its Summer Leadership Conference for approximately 600 Virginia high school students and adults. Substance Abuse Awareness Vital for Virginia Youth (SAVVY) helps parents, educators, and youth advocates teach children about the dangers of substance abuse. SAVVY organizes informational expos where communities get information about drug abuse.
  • Youth to Youth International - Youth to Youth is a community-based drug prevention and youth leadership program focusing primarily on middle and high school students.  The goal of its many projects is harnessing the powerful influence of peer pressure making it a positive, peer led force, encouraging young people to live free of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

Teacher’s Guide: Prescription Drug Misuse: Choose Your Path Interactive Videos


Please note: PEERx and the Choose Your Path content has been discontinued and will no longer be updated.

The Choose Your Path classroom activity includes two interactive videos that asks students  to assume the role of the main character, who is confronted with a decision about whether to misuse prescription drugs. After each scene, the student selects what the main character will do next to see the consequences of that decision. After each scene, select what the main character will do next to see what happens next. The video can be restarted to explore the outcomes of different decisions. NOTE: The player buttons may not respond as expected on Google Chrome. The issue can be resolved when the video is restarted. However, if the issues continues, please view on Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer.

The purpose of this exercise is to reinforce student’s drug use refusal skills as well as strengthen their student knowledge of prescription drug misuse facts to help better prepare them in the event they are faced with having to making these types of decisions.  

This 3-part lesson includes:

  • Part 1: Students watch the video and make decisions based on real-life scenarios.
  • Part 2: Classroom discussion questions.
  • Part 3 (Optional): Students make their own videos.  

Part 1: Students watch the Choose Your Path videos

Have your students watch the videos.  They begin with a clip that sets up the scenario. At the end of each scene, students choose between two different paths. After making the selection, the chosen scenario plays out. The video can be restarted to explore the outcomes of different decisions and what might happen if someone takes a medication not prescribed for them.

Video 1: Choose Your Path: BFF or the Ex?

Download or have your students read online the Drug Facts pages about each of the prescription drugs featured.

  • Xanax. Xanax is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant prescribed to people for anxiety and sleeping problems.
  • Vicodin. Vicodin is an opioid prescribed to people to treat pain. Opioids are often prescribed by doctors after surgery or to help patients with severe acute or chronic pain.

Video 2: Choose Your Path: The Big Test

Download or have your students read online the Drug Facts pages about each of the prescription drugs featured.

  • Adderall and Other Stimulants. Stimulants increase activity in the body, such as increasing a person’s heart rate and the release of dopamine in the brain.

Part 2: Group Discussion

These questions can facilitate large or small group discussions after watching the Choose Your Path videos:

  1. What would you do if faced with the same situations as the characters?
  2. What are safe ways for the main characters to react to the stressful situations they face?
  3. What are the dangers of taking a friend’s or family member’s prescription drugs?

Part 3: Students Create Their Own Interactive Video (Optional)

Students follow the step-by-step instructions to create their own Choose Your Path storylines. In doing so, the students think about the effects of prescription drugs and the scenarios in which students might abuse them. The students learn about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs and are encouraged to think about how they might react when faced with the opportunity to abuse drugs.

Print out for the students:

Supplemental Materials

Activity Instructions

Get creative!

Ready to create your very own Choose Your Path adventure?

Time to flex your creativity and writing skills. Use the facts on the NIDA for Teens Drug Facts to make your storyline realistic, and based on the facts of prescription drug misuse.

1. Develop Your Character

  1. Who are they?
    1. What is their Gender? Race? Ethnicity? Age? Style?
    2. Are they an artist or an athlete or a star student (or all?)
    3. Are they a loner or do they have a lot of friends?
    4. Do they get in trouble a lot or are they the teacher’s pet?
    5. Do they have dreams? Goals?
    6. Do they have a lot of stress in their lives or are they carefree?
  2. What is the prescription drug they will be faced with making a decision about?
    1. Opioids—pain medicines like Vicodin, OxyContin, or codeine
    2. Depressants—like those used to relieve anxiety or help a person sleep, such as Valium or Xanax
    3. Stimulants—like those used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall and Ritalin

2. Outline Your Story.

Use the blank decision tree to help you outline your story. Filling in the boxes with your own ideas helps you develop your own story about misusing prescription drugs, just like the official Choose Your Path videos.

Don’t forget that these video adventures are shot from the main character’s point of view, meaning that you see things as they happen through the eyes of the main character. Basically, any person watching or reading this storyline is the main character.

Here are a couple of things to remember as you create your adventure:

  • Start off with one decision, such as should you go on a date with Mario? Or not? Should you miss the bus and take a ride from a friend? Should you say ‘hi’ to that cute boy or girl at the mall?
  • Make sure your reader is faced with two decisions in every scene. One decision should have a negative consequence of abusing prescription drugs. The other should be based on a healthier decision.
  • Include outcomes based on the decisions that you made at the end of the story. The decisions are yours!

3. Lights, camera, action! (Optional)

Bring your adventure to life! Grab a camera, some friends to be your actors, and find or make the props you need to videotape one or more of the scenes in your story.